The buddy story is a staple of TV and movies. It has given the world some clunkers but also unforgettable duos like Laurel and Hardy, Oscar and Felix, and B.J. and The Bear. Dailymotion hopes to add “Ben and Burman” to the mix.
The two best friends and bitter enemies appear in a Web series reminiscent of “The Odd Couple” in theme, modernized with uncomfortable situations and sharp dialog, perfect for short-form Web-based comedy. In addition to the webisodes, “Ben and Burman” also plan to deliver an animated series and, ultimately, a TV sitcom. But everything must start somewhere, and “Ben and Burman” have launched with an exclusive distribution deal with Dailymotion. It’s a good fit, and it could help Dailymotion establish an identity as something more than a second-tier YouTube wannabe.
The series is written and produced by TV and film actor Ben Giroux, who has appeared in “Bones” and “Psych,” and his real-life best friend Scott Burman of Chicago’s Second City comedy troupe. Burman’s Second City credentials are evident in the series, as his comedic chops and short-form story telling are reminiscent of finely honed comedy-troupe improv skits. Their banter is punchy, sarcastic and insulting, and it is fast paced for the duration of the three-to-six minute episodes.
“Ben and Burman” launched on Sept 21 with the first of 12 weekly episodes, “Ben and Burman Fight Zombies.” In a plot typical for the series, Ben’s dinner-date plans come to a grinding halt as Burman fears that the world is being taken over by zombies. Despite Ben’s objections to his very presence on the night he was supposed to have their apartment to himself, it turns out Burman was right.
Other storylines in the first five episodes of the series include a heist where Burman interrupts another one of Ben’s dinner dates by robbing his girlfriend and an episode where God intervenes in Ben and Burman’s relationship to encourage them to respect each other. When that doesn’t seem likely to happen, God arrives in the form of a nerdy guy who moves in with them to help. “Hey, God, what do you think of my tuna casserole?”
My personal favorite episode was “Ben and Burman Hate Nazis,” where Burman is convinced Ben’s girlfriend is a Nazi and sets out to prove it. From ordering matzo ball soup to gauge her reaction to cracking jokes about preferring the oven over the microwave and making sure the gas is on, Burman does everything in his power to annoy Ben in the process, and it works.
Unfortunately, the exclusive distribution deal with Dailymotion seems to be holding back a series that should be doing much better. Since launch, the first episodes have been viewed fewer than 10,000 times. However, the more recent episodes seem to be gaining some momentum, closing in on 15,000 views after only two weeks. Hardly a breakout hit, but at least trending in the right direction. Distribution across more video sites would help this series tremendously. Still, it’s a credit to Dailymotion that it secured such quality content. Let’s hope this doesn’t doom the series.
Overall, “Ben and Burman” seems to have the Web-video formula nailed. The episodes are coherent, follow and finish a storyline, and deliver comedic tension and laughs from start to finish in easily digestible lengths. The quality of the production, while not TV quality, is well above other similar webisodic fare and doesn’t have any hints of amateurism to it. With their quick wit, tight plot and sense of comedic timing, “Ben and Burman” could become a breakout series. It just needs to find its audience.
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